Gilmore's Gig 

The former governor on his think tank, the economy and prospects for another run.

It's been 16 years since Jim Gilmore, seated with his wife, Roxane, was sworn in at the State Capitol on Jan. 17, 1998.

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It's been 16 years since Jim Gilmore, seated with his wife, Roxane, was sworn in at the State Capitol on Jan. 17, 1998.

What does a Virginia governor do after leaving office?

He travels. And talks on television. And runs a nonprofit think tank that's trying to revive the American economy.

Jim Gilmore, 64, has a lot on his plate. The man who ran Virginia from 1998 to 2002 and lost a U.S. Senate race in 2008 might be most remembered for lowering the state's annual personal property or "car" tax. To him, it was a campaign promise and a necessity to put more money in the hands of Virginians who should be contributing to the economy.

Now, at the national level, he's at it again.

The Free Congress Foundation, which Gilmore took over in 2009, has made economic growth its top priority. Cut taxes for businesses, get people jobs, keep investing in the military and, Gilmore says, America will be stronger.

The same goes for urban areas, where Free Congress would like to apply "conservative principles" - think lowering sales taxes to attract businesses.

"The classic approach to the cities has been to raise taxes to provide services," Gilmore said. "That's not the most effective way to address these concerns. The higher you raise taxes, the more people flee urban areas."

Even on foreign policy, Gilmore says much comes back to the economy. He said Russia's recent annexation of Crimea, for example, harkens dangerously back to the Cold War. But it could have been avoided if America had a stronger economy and policy, he said.

"I do not advocate going to war with Russia over the Ukraine," Gilmore said. "But I believe a stronger position by the U.S. would deter" Russia.

"We're seeing a very weak American policy."

With the Free Congress Foundation, Gilmore, who lives in Richmond, has been meeting with senators and representatives and going on cable news shows to advocate his ideas. He's taking the message far and wide -- trips to discuss business and policy have included Australia, Pakistan, Chicago, California and New York.

Gilmore also serves on the boards of several businesses and organizations, including the National Rifle Association and the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.

Is he thinking of running for office again?

"I've had a lot of encouragement," he said. But for now, he said he's happy working with the foundation.

"I love policy issues, public policy issues," Gilmore said. "This is my way of making a contribution."

This story first appeared in the Virginian-Pilot.

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